A newsletter reader wrote recently and asked if there are any free genealogy programs available today. I thought perhaps others might have the same question so I will respond here in the newsletter where anyone interested can read the answer.
In fact, there are many free, full-featured genealogy programs available for Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Linux, or even for installing in a web server you control. The various programs do vary widely in features and capabilities.
In addition, the handheld systems that run Chrome or Apple’s iOS operating system also have many free genealogy apps available although most of them are somewhat limited in capabilities. I would not describe any of the genealogy apps for handheld devices as “full featured” programs that compete with the desktop genealogy products for Macintosh, Linux, and Windows. However, even that is changing.
The following is a list of free genealogy programs that may meet your needs. However, the paid programs usually offer more features.
For Microsoft Windows, there is RootsMagic Essentials, Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition, Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage, Gramps, AncestralQuest Basics, and maybe some others that I do not recall right now.
For Linux, see Gramps. Don’t bother with anything else. Other Linux genealogy programs do exist but pale in comparison to Gramps.
For Chromebooks, see my article, Genealogy Applications for Chromebooks, at: https://blog.eogn.com/2017/04/19/genealogy-applications-for-chromebooks/ and the list in the Google Play Store at https://play.google.com/store/search?q=genealogy&c=apps.
I am sure you can find other free genealogy programs as well. However, the above list shows the ones that have been around for a while and have become popular.
For Android or Apple’s iOS operating system, see the App Store for your system. It should list a number of free genealogy apps but, again, I would not describe any of them as “full featured” programs that compete with the desktop genealogy products for Macintosh, Linux, and Windows.
As for myself, I don’t use any genealogy program installed in a personal computer. My favorite method of keeping my own genealogy database is to store all the data online where it is accessible to me when I use any computer and (optionally) accessible to the people that I allow to see the data. I would suggest you use an online genealogy service that is designed for the purpose. Using an online genealogy service is easier and more reliable than installing, maintaining, and updating software in a personal computer yourself. There are several ways of accomplishing that.
My favorite genealogy “program” is MyHeritage.com, the sponsor of this newsletter. I will quickly admit that I am biased to the company that pays the bills for this newsletter. However, I honestly believe that if this newsletter had a different sponsor or no sponsor at all, I would still use MyHeritage.com as my primary genealogy “program.”
However, with MyHeritage.com or any other genealogy program, I do make complete backups of all my data at least once a month and store the backups in my home computers and also in at least two different file storage services in the cloud operated by other companies. (That’s one copy at MyHeritage.com, more than one copy at home, plus at least two copies in two or more file storage services in the cloud, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and others.) That’s cheap insurance. I cannot imagine any disaster that would lose all four or more copies simultaneously!
I prefer MyHeritage simply because I have my own, separate database on the service. Nobody else can ever change any information in my database without my permission. That’s not true of all the online genealogy services. In addition, nobody can even SEE my data unless I give permission. I can give read-only permission to only one person, to a group, to everyone on the World Wide Web, or to no one. I like those choices.
Using MyHeritage.com as a genealogy program is free for small databases of up to 250 people. However, for larger databases, you do have to pay fees. Pricing may be found at: https://www.myheritage.com/pricing.
Another Solution: Install a Genealogy Program Online
For anyone with some technical expertise, having your own personal online genealogy program installed in a web server you control can be very attractive. Again, as the owner, you can give read-only permission to only one person, to a group, to everyone on the World Wide Web, or to no one. You can also give full read/write permission to anyone you wish. That is a great feature for group efforts when several people are cooperating at researching the same family.
For more information about having your own genealogy program installed in a private web server that you control, look at The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (“TNG”) at http://www.tngsitebuilding.com/. TNG does cost a modest $32.99 US. Also, look at Webtrees, a free genealogy program that installs in a web server at https://www.webtrees.net/index.php/en/.